It used to be that rookie wide receivers were worthless in fantasy football. They took time to develop and only ate up valuable redraft space on a team’s roster. Then Anquan Boldin came to town. This second-round pick (and second receiver taken) of the Arizona Cardinals forever put into question whether 40 times meant anything. Not only is he the best player named Anquan in NFL history, he had 101 catches and eight touchdowns his rookie year.
Last year’s rookie WR class was a gold mine of talent. Roy Williams had eight touchdowns and made some crazy one-handed catches. Larry Fitzgerald also had eight scores despite having guys like Shaun King throw him the ball. Lee Evans averaged 17.6 yards a catch and scored nine touchdowns. The best and most consistent guy was Michael Clayton. He hauled in 80 balls, averaged almost 15 a catch, and scored seven times. Non-first-rounders like Keary Colbert, Darius Watts, and Clarence Moore made impacts.
Is this year’s class even close? I’d say no way, but you can’t deny that there is plenty of NFL-ready talent entering the draft. Just like Axl Rose used to say, with some of these guys you’re going to need a little patience.
Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns: Edwards is the most talented receiver in this year’s draft class. Just ask him. There’s a stigma about Michigan wide receivers because some of them have been busts (hello, David Terrell). Here’s the thing about Edwards. He’s the best WR in Michigan history. Look over the Browns WRs and do you see any number-one wideouts? Andre Davis has promise and Antonio Bryant might live up to his hype eventually. Edwards can easily become the top guy in Cleveland. I just don’t think he’ll be fantastic immediately.
Troy Williamson, Minnesota Vikings: Between Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson, Kelly Campbell, and new acquisition Travis Taylor the Vikings can cobble together a solid passing game. Williamson is a burner who played in a quasi-option offensive system at South Carolina. He’s a big, tall guy who can run a sub 4.4 40. According to
CBS Sportsline’s college wide receiver rankings, he was the 43rd-ranked wide receiver in college last year. So why the love? Wouldn’t Mike Williams have been a better pick? Williamson had some injuries last year, but his speed and upside (dreaded word, that) made him the obvious pick for the Vikings. He is a risk for dynasty and especially redraft leagues.
Mike Williams, Detroit Lions: Here’s an example of where talent has to trump opportunity. In Tennessee, Minnesota, or even Chicago Mike Williams could turn into a number one receiver. In Detroit Williams has to get in line behind two consecutive top-ten draft picks. ‘Ol Brittle-bones himself Charles Rogers might not develop, but Roy Williams is a monster. Is Joey Harrington the long-term answer in town? It’s hard to say, and that’s why Mike Williams may be the best receiver drafted although his numbers aren’t necessarily going to follow suit. He’s an intriguing long-term prospect.
Matt Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars: I don’t know where he fits in, considering that the Jaguars already have a quarterback… wait a second, he’s going to be a receiver? The Jags drafted two receivers last year and were so impressed with them that they drafted two more this year. OK, so he’s really tall, quite large, and runs about as fast as Mike Vick with a stiff wind behind him. Jones also looks like an extra from Point Break. If the Jaguars are inside the ten this year and don’t run a fade to this guy, they’re insane. Jones has been compared to 2004 breakout sensation Drew Bennett, and the wide receiver coach who helped develop Jones is now with the Jags (traitor). Jones is as risky a pick as hitting when you have 18 in blackjack, but you never know, you might get that three.
Mike Clayton, Baltimore Ravens: He’s either the most complete wide receiver in the draft or another Ravens bust. His numbers in 2004 were significantly lower than his outstanding 2003 totals. Mark Bradley and Brandon Jones’ development (both were drafted in the first three rounds) had a lot to do with it. Clayton’s easily the Ravens’ #2 receiver this year. That hasn’t been a good player (Kevin Johnson, anyone?) for years.
Roddy White, Falcons: White led the country in yards per catch last season. He’s another tall, fast receiver who might need to learn how to block downfield. It hasn’t been widely reported, but the Falcons have used their number one pick on a receiver three years in a row. OK, Mike Jenkins was their second first-rounder last year, and Peerless Price was acquired for their 2003 #1 pick (still hurts), but you see where I’m going. Until Vick moves away from his one read and run philosophy, Falcons’ receivers aren’t worthy of rostering.
In the next edition, I’ll continue with the second-rounders.